Over the last few years Yale University Press have published some brilliant books in their Musical Instrument series. The latest addition – The Saxophone – is a fantastic work that really is the most comprehensive book on saxophone to date.
First published in 2013, the American Musical Instrument Society like it too – they’ve awarded it the Bessaraboff Prize this year!
Written by Professor Stephen Cottrell, the project ended up taking more than nine years to complete. “I was approached by Yale a few years back to write this book, but to be honest it seemed like a huge project,” says Stephen, who is Head of the Department of Music at City University London, and a founder of the Delta Saxophone Quartet. Initially commissioned at a length of 110,000 words, the finished version is almost 170,000 words long.
In his introduction Stephen argues that the saxophone has perhaps not received the recognition that other instruments have enjoyed, and has not been seen as a suitable subject for academic study. With this book he tries to address this, with a thoroughly researched volume which is also accessible to the general reader.
The Saxophone tracks the history of the instrument from Adolphe Sax’s first inspiration right through to the modern day, and explores how it has been used, from military bands to classical, and of course jazz and pop. It sets out the complete history of the instrument for the first time.
Stephen also explores the influence of saxophone on society in general and popular culture in particular, covering its development, design, and even how it is perceived, for example, in the media.
The book is illustrated with fascinating photographs of players and ensembles from the saxophone’s earliest history, as well as details of the instrument’s changing design. There are extracts from key pieces of saxophone repertoire which show how composition for the instrument has developed as its versatility was discovered.
There are also examples of posters, cartoons, advertisements and illustrations which show the place of the saxophone in cultural life.
“I wanted to write a book for saxophone players as well as those who just love the instrument,” says Stephen. “It’s wonderful to get so many great comments from readers.”
The Saxophone is a brilliant, in-depth book that will surely be the benchmark publication on this great instrument for many years to come.
The Saxophone is £25 / $40 available from Amazon